Most mornings I make my way over to the woodstove room. I tuck my legs up beside me in one of the chairs and sip my coffee. It isn’t particularly restful or restorative, more a comfortable routine. The other morning I went into our living room to fold up a blanket that had been left behind after watching Anne of Green Gables with the girls. It was still in the mold from the night before—a hollow space where shoulders and knees had been.

I set the blanket on the back of the couch and then instead of leaving I sat down. The morning light touched my face. I leaned into it and exhaled. When I opened my eyes I looked back toward where I usually sit. That side of the house looked dark. I turned back to the window and then caught my shadow to the right. The sunlight through the leaves made the light move like water and the kinks and points of my bedhead looked more Midsummer Night’s Dream than Nightmare on Elm Street.

Funny that one tiny decision and I’m smiling instead of floating through the motions. I began to consider how my routine can sometimes perpetuate the very thoughts I try to unseat. It makes perfect sense that a small change could influence my attitude. Thinking about all the ways it might work beyond my morning coffee—where I park, the sites I visit online, the words I use.

Yesterday, completely without any sort of, “Let’s see if I can make someone’s day a little brighter” I was passing a woman in the bathroom in our office building. Her dress was impossibly cheerful, white with bright flowers that moved up from the hem toward the waist and were echoed by a row along the neckline. I was about to close the stall door when I blurted, “Fun dress!”

I think we were both surprised. There is a kind of unwritten rule of no conversation in the bathroom. She giggled, she does not look like someone who I’d call a giggler. I smiled and then she launched into a cheerful exclaim about how if the weather wasn’t going to feel like spring, at least her clothes could.

I did it again in the stairwell later in the day with another woman I don’t know. “Gorgeous dress,” I said as I raced down the stairs. “Thank you so much,” she called back with a laugh. I heard that laugh and the giggles from earlier over and over again throughout the afternoon,

The thing I am learning is that we cannot have it all. I don’t say this as an exclusively female thing or solely related to work life balance, I really mean that there is always something we could do better or that saddens us. Our best hope is to keep turning our focus, a little bit here, a little bit there. Even the most valiant warriors or devoted students must rest.

Smile at someone, maybe even yourself. Sit in a different chair, turn into the sun, or into yourself. It might be the easiest way out of a rut and onto a place with a new perspective.